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Front Microbiol. 2014 Apr 22;5:166. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00166. eCollection 2014.

Mycoloop: chytrids in aquatic food webs.

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Faculty of Science, Toho University Funabashi, Japan.
Institute of Oceanography, National Taiwan University Taipei, Taiwan.


Parasites are ecologically significant in various ecosystems through their role in shaping food web structure, facilitating energy transfer, and controlling disease. Here in this review, we mainly focus on parasitic chytrids, the dominant parasites in aquatic ecosystems, and explain their roles in aquatic food webs, particularly as prey for zooplankton. Chytrids have a free-living zoosporic stage, during which they actively search for new hosts. Zoospores are excellent food for zooplankton in terms of size, shape, and nutritional quality. In the field, densities of chytrids can be high, ranging from 10(1) to 10(9) spores L(-1). When large inedible phytoplankton species are infected by chytrids, nutrients within host cells are transferred to zooplankton via the zoospores of parasitic chytrids. This new pathway, the "mycoloop," may play an important role in shaping aquatic ecosystems, by altering sinking fluxes or determining system stability. The grazing of zoospores by zooplankton may also suppress outbreaks of parasitic chytrids. A food web model demonstrated that the contribution of the mycoloop to zooplankton production increased with nutrient availability and was also dependent on the stability of the system. Further studies with advanced molecular tools are likely to discover greater chytrid diversity and evidence of additional mycoloops in lakes and oceans.


chytridiomycota; daphnia; diatom; indirect mutualism; mycoloop; parasitic fungi; stability; trophic transfer

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